OCADFA acknowledges the sacred land on which we live and work. For over 15,000 years this land has been home to Indigenous people who have lived and continue to live in relation with the land in ways that have been proven to be ecologically sustainable and vital, and that deepen our humanity by honouring our relations.  

This land is the territory of the Mississauga of the Credit First Nation, Anishnaabe, Haudenosaunee, Wendat, and Huron Indigenous Peoples.

Today, this meeting place of Toronto is still home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to be here together, in conversation with Indigenous histories. We are committed to working in solidarity with Indigenous-led activism and to upholding the values and practices that protect the land, care for the people and make it possible to plan for a peaceable future.

OCADFA Monthly Newsletter Vol 1 Issue 4 (May 2021)

The OCADFA Monthly Newsletter keeps you in the know with information about our Association’s activity, articles that address emerging membership issues, and details about our involvement in coalitions and broader campaigns. If there’s something you want covered in our newsletter, or you want to contribute a piece, please contact Mary Eileen Wennekers at mwennekers@faculty.ocadu.ca.

In this issue: 

  • Negotiations Chair update
  • May GMM on negotiations Monday May 31st at 10am
  • Grievance workshop Thursday June 3 at 10am
  • TA/RA organizing update
  • Faculty experience of FLOW and online teaching: Survey results so far
  • Communications Committee Chair update
  • Sick pay for contract and precarious OCADFA members: Announcement from HR
  • OCADFA actions in solidarity with librarians (OPSEU 256) 
  • OCADFA member bh Yael reflects on the state of Israel’s conduct towards Palestinians
  • Scholar’s Strike: Anti-Asian Racism programming May 29th and 30th
  • Solidarity actions with Unifor Local 252, and congratulations on your tentative deal!
  • Sign up for the OCUFA newsletter


Information about our Association’s activity

Negotiations Chair Update 

We have begun to work with the Administration on implementation of the award and other agreed items from this round. We have scheduled meetings to finalize the outstanding items which were remitted to the parties to resolve.

You can read a summary of the changes and our award here: http://ocadfa.ca/negotiations-update-interest-arbitration-award/. If you have questions about the changes, please attend our membership meeting on Monday May 31st at 10am. I will be there along with many of the negotiations committee members to share our experience.

        — Eric Steenbergen, Negotiations Chair

Monthly Membership Meeting: Our New Memorandum of Agreement

This May’s Monthly Meeting will be held on Monday, May 31st at 10AM, and it will be co-chaired by Negotiations Chair Eric Steenbergen and OCADFA President Min Sook Lee. If you have any questions about the bargaining, mediation and arbitration processes, or questions about what our new contract language means for you, please attend. This is an opportunity to bring up insights and communicate collaboratively on all things OCADFA, so we will hope to see you there! Please watch for a forthcoming invitation to attend through Microsoft Teams. 

We will also have an update on TA/RA organizing. 

Grievance Workshop Thursday June 3 10am-11:30am

On Thursday June 3 OCADFA Grievance Chair Natalie Waldburger and OCADFA Director Richard Hunt will be presenting a workshop on how the grievance process works, how grievances can be resolved, and what to expect as as you go through the process. They will be demystifying an important tool that we use to make sure that our employer is following our mutually agreed-upon Memorandum of Agreement.

Filing a grievance is not a fundamentally antagonistic process against our admin as much as it is a method to equitably resolve disputes between us and our employer. The workshop will explain how OCADFA can support you and help you navigate the different means and ways to assert your rights at work.

TA/RA Organizing Update

The TA and RA survey has now closed. We received 40 responses in total by the survey close date, though a few others who did not get the chance to complete the survey have reached out to me to discuss their experiences privately. Here are some of the preliminary findings.

Demographics of TA and RA respondents at OCADU:

· 52.5% of TAs/RAs are currently enrolled graduate students at OCADU

· 52.5% of TAs are also working as TAs for the first time this past year

· 65% of survey respondents are TAs or RAs in either the Faculty of Arts or the Faculty of 

Arts and Sciences

· OCADU TAs and RAs tend to skew a bit older in terms of age: while 25% of respondents are 25 years of age or younger, 57.5% are 26 to 35 years of age and 12.5% are between the ages of 36 and 55

· 85% of respondents identified as “woman”

· 57.5% identified as white or non-racialized. In terms of racialized TAs/RAs at OCADU, 12.5% identified as East Asian; 10% identified as Black; 7.5% as Middle Eastern, North African, or Arab; 5% as non-white Latin American, 5% as South Asian; 5% as mixed race; 2.5% identified as Indigenous; and 2.5% as South East Asian

· 17.5% reported having a physical disability, and/or an invisible disability, and/or being neurodivergent

TA working conditions at OCADU:

TA training:

· 81% of TA respondents would like to have some training, orientation, or onboarding for TAs if offered by OCADU, with 60% wanting paid training

· 57% of TA respondents reported having some type of TA training, though 27% of those who received training did not feel that it was enough

· For TAs who did receive some training, 28% received it from the Faculty and Curriculum Development Center (FCDC) while another 28% received training from the course instructor or faculty member teaching the course

· 31% reported not feeling knowledgeable enough to be able to support, help, or deal with students who have Student Accessibility Services (SAS) accommodations in any of the course(s) in which they were a TA

Class sizes and contracted hours of work:

· 35% of TA respondents had classes with 66-85 students, while 13.5% had classes with 26-45 students, another 13.5% had 46-65 students, and 8% had 86-110 students

· 38% of TA respondents were given a list of possible TA duties and associated hours for each by the Faculty office after returning their signed contract, while 32% of respondents were informally told of possible TA duties and associated hours for each by their course instructor but nothing was presented formally or in a written document, and 16% have never met with their course instructor teaching the course to discuss the breakdown or allocation of contracted work hours in terms of duties and associated hours for each

· While 54% reported working about the same number of hours as specified in their contract, 38% reported working more hours than they were contracted for, though overall

81% of respondents reported keeping track of the number of hours they worked in some form

· 22% of TAs reported that the demands of their TA position are somewhat negatively affecting their success in their program as a student

Relations with students and course instructors or supervisors:

· While 59% reported feeling comfortable enough to let their course instructor know they were close to or have exceeded the number of contracted hours before the term was over, of those who reported not feeling comfortable reaching out to their course instructor, 27% felt it was their responsibility to get their TA job done while 19% did not want to negatively affect their ability to get TA positions in the future, and 11% did not want to damage their relationship with their course instructor

· 22% reported experiencing a toxic situation with one or more students in the course(s) in which they were a TA, where a “toxic situation” is defined as having to deal with aggressive behaviour, degrading comments, microaggressions, negative attitudes/comments towards their ability to do their job, in ways that are psychological or physically harmful

· 11% reported experiencing a toxic situation with their course instructor or supervisor

Remote teaching and TA workload during the pandemic:

· 33% reported increases in class sizes during the pandemic compared to before

· While 47% of TA respondents did not report an increase in workload during the pandemic, of those who did see an increase in their TA workload during the pandemic:

· 33% reported having to provide emotional support to their students in crisis without adequate training or support

· 31% reported an increase in the volume of emails

· 22% reported having more assignments/assessments that were added to the course that were time-consuming to complete

· 19% reported being asked or pressured to grade more assignments in total for each course

Equity concerns at OCADU:

· While 47% of TA and RA respondents reported that they felt OCADU has been an inclusive workplace in terms of ensuring that equity is met on multiple grounds, such as eliminating barriers based on race/ethnicity, gender/sexuality, age, disability, etc. 14% of respondents also reported that they had issues in accessing culturally appropriate mentorship and support at OCADU

Returning to in-person classes in the fall:

· 36% of respondents said “yes” about feeling comfortable returning to in-person teaching

· 22% of respondents said “no” about feeling comfortable returning to in-person teaching

· 42% of respondents said “maybe” or “not sure” about feeling comfortable returning to in-person teaching

Survey results: Faculty Experience with Online Teaching and FLOW, Spring 2021

Following up on our March survey of faculty teaching large-format lecture classes and on our March monthly meeting about FLOW, we launched a more widespread survey to assess the degree to which the combined contexts of FLOW and the COVID-19 pandemic are affecting our working conditions, our workload, and our occupational health and safety.  

Similarly to the survey targeted at large-format lecture classes, it is clear even from our preliminary results that working conditions have deteriorated. 

For instance, over half of us have reported developing a new physical or mental health condition that we link to the requirements of online course delivery in the last year – but only 22% of us either have successfully or believe we know how to access needed accommodations

You can see more preliminary results on our website at http://ocadfa.ca/ocadfa-2021-survey-on-faculty-experience-with-online-teaching-and-flow/.

The survey will stay open until May 31st in order to collect as much data as possible. If you have not yet already completed it, it takes about half an hour but what you provide us with that time is invaluable as a resource for understanding the situation clearly and effectively advocating to the Administration and broader OCADU community for much-needed change.

Please check your “Other” inbox for a message from Survey Monkey to get your invitation. Using emailed invitations helps us to ensure that it is only OCADFA members who are answering the survey. 

  • Elena Chou, OCADFA Contract TA/RA Organizer

Communications Committee Chair Update


We are always looking for ways to promote the amazing talent our membership has. Every Monday we do a social media feature on the practice of one of our members. If you would like your work featured, please get in touch with jjlee@faculty.ocadu.ca.  

– JJ Lee, OCADFA Communications Committee Chair. 


Emerging membership issues

OCUFA Memo on Covid-19 & Health and Safety

We are forwarding (please find attached) a memo from OCUFA on COVID-19 and Health and Safety, with a legal analysis and updated provided by Goldblatt Partners LLP. In this memo you’ll find a review of the legal principles governing the right to refuse unsafe work, entitlement to workplace accommodations, and vaccine policies. If you don’t have time to read the full memo, we’ve provided some key points below.

Vaccine Policies: it is unlikely an employer could impose a strictly “mandatory” vaccination policy as compelling individuals to undertake medical procedures without their consent is generally unlawful. This doesn’t preclude an employer from attempting to enforce a “softer” policy wherein employees who refuse vaccination are subject to non-disciplinary consequences, such as an enforced unpaid leave of absence in the event there is an outbreak at the workplace or sufficiently high rate of community transmission. Any vaccination policy an employer does adopt would have to be consistent with the Human Rights Code, and as such would be subject to reasonable accommodation for employees with code-based grounds for refusing vaccination. Students also have rights, and as such it is unlikely the University will be able to inform faculty on the vaccination status of their students, as per the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Right to Refuse Unsafe Work: the Occupational Health and Safety Act provides for the right to refuse work that is likely to endanger themselves, but to date the Ministry of Labour has dismissed nearly all COVID-19 related work refusals. However, it is important to note that the right to refuse unsafe work differs from the right to be accommodated if you have Code based grounds for accommodation, such as being either more susceptible to COVID-19 or being unable to be vaccinated for medical or creed-based grounds.

Accommodations: the right to an accommodation may apply to you if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or if you are more susceptible to the symptoms of COVID-19. For example, a faculty member with a compromised immune system may not be able to come to campus, but could work perform their duties remotely. Conversely, while the campus is closed and all curriculum is delivered remotely, members with a disability that is exacerbated by remote instruction may also be entitled to an accommodation. Depending on your specific circumstances, you may also be entitled to seek an accommodation on the grounds of “family status” so to as balance childcare responsibilities. Please see the March newsletter for further information on the right to accommodation to the point of undue hardship.

Sick Pay Information for Contract Workers At OCADU

In case you missed the memo from HR (some inboxes sorted this communication to the “Other” file, please review the information about how temporary and contract workers can access paid sick days as provided by the Ontario government.

Sent on May 18, 2021, at 11:30am to Temporary Contract Administrative Staff, TAs, RAs, Models, Student Monitors, CAs, Exam Invigilators, Recruiters, Sessional Instructors, Sessional Admin, Non-Credit Instructors,

The Ontario Provincial government has confirmed that with the passing of Bill 284, the Worker Income Protection Benefit (WIPB) leave is now in effect, from April 19, 2021, to September 25, 2021. Individuals who do not have sick benefit coverage with OCAD U are now eligible for three (3) paid WIPB leave days for COVID-19 related reasons. 

If you need to access WIPB leave, please refer to the information below.

Eligibility for the leave provision is based on scheduled hours of work. All individuals who have scheduled hours but are unable to work as per the WIPB leave criteria, will be required to inform both their Supervisor and HR at hr@ocadu.ca. 

If your role does not have a fixed work schedule for hours, an average of the previous 4 weeks of hours worked will be used to calculate your WIPB leave hours, in accordance with the amended Employment Standards Act (ESA). Upon receipt of your request and after eligibility is determined, a memo will be provided as confirmation of your WIPB leave application.  

The WIPB leave provision does have limitations and you are only able to apply currently for a maximum of three (3) days total, regardless of the number of instances. If your absence of illness extends beyond this period, you may be eligible to apply for Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB). You can find further information on this benefit here

If you are a current OCAD U student, you will need to request WIPB leave prior to requesting the Sick Days Bursary program available through OCAD U Financial Aid & Awards.  Please review the Sick Days Bursary program for fu​rther information.

2021/22 OCADU Operating Budget 

 With little fanfare or attention, the Board of Governors approved the 2021/2022 operating budget at its meeting on May 10. While we have yet to do a full analysis, we’ve identified the following key points:

  •  Despite undergoing drastic cuts framed as fiscally imperative, or more aptly because of these cuts, the University earned an estimated surplus of $638,000 during the 2020/21 operating year;
  •  While we understand the importance of fiscal sustainability, we are dismayed that total academic compensation was slashed by $2,992,000 from the 2019/22 operating year. This means the surplus was achieved on the backs of our over-worked and under-employed (sessional) members, and the denigrated learning experiences of students caused by ballooning class sizes;
  • The 2021/21 budget modestly increases total academic compensation to by $123,000. This remains $2,869,000 below the 2019/20 operating year figure. This represents an 8.7% cut to academic compensation since 2019/20;
  • A whopping $933,000 of this reduction is attributed to what the administration is referring to “FLOW curricular efficiencies,” meaning a drastic reduction in course sections and increasing class sizes;
  • A further $229,000 in budgeted cuts is attributed to “operational efficiencies in the Library as recommended by the External Review.” This is referring to the David Trick report presented to the Board of Governors in December 2020. 
  •  The library staff are part of “academic compensation” in the just approved budget. OCADFA seesd the library reorganization as an academic matter, and therefore subject to collegial governance processes and that require transparent and meaningful consultation with faculty, students and staff and within  the Senate.

We are hearing loud and clear from our members that we want to see more transparency around budgetary decisions, and that there is increasing discomfort with the use of the Trick report (3rd party review) as the primary guide for high-level decision making at OCAD University.


Campaign and community organizing updates

Solidarity with OCAD University Professional Librarians 

OCAD University’s Senate weighed in to support the four terminated librarians, OPSEU Local 576 and  demand transparent and meaningful consultation on the library’s reorganization at the May meeting of Senate.  Asidefrom 8 abstentions, all Senators voted in favour of and passed the following motion tabled by Senator Kathleen Morris and presented by Senator Natalie Waldburger as her proxy:

Whereas: the reorganization of the OCADU library took place without broad, transparent, and meaningful consultation with all members of the OCAD U community 

Whereas: collegial governance is one of the key and unifying principles for academic institutions across Canada. There has been to date, no direct discussion at Senate on this reorganization.

Whereas: Librarians work closely with faculty to support curricular development and delivery and our scholarly research and output.  They are, in fact, equal partners in institutions which respect and uphold traditions of collegial governance. 

Motion:  Recommend that the library restructuring be paused pending review by a committee of Senate, respecting the principles of collegial governance, as the plans directly affect the academic mission of the University.

OCADFA’s position is that any reorganization of the library must go through the Senate to respect the principle of collegial governance on academic matters central to our sector.   There was no transparent or meaningful consultation with academic leaders, students or library staff about this library reorganization. There has been, to date, no direct discussion at the Senate on this reorganization.

The librarians’ day-to-day work intersects squarely with the academic, pedagogic, student-facing function of the university. This work goes to the heart of the academic enterprise.  Librarians are equal partners in our academic mission and are recognized and treated as such in most universities across Canada.

On May 4th, four of the most senior librarians in OCAD University were unceremoniously terminated:

 Daniel Payne (20 yrs), MLIS, MA (Musicology), BEd  (Head, Reference & Instructional Services)

Victoria Sigurdson (13 yrs), BFA (Hons), MLI (Head, Visual Resources & Special Collections)

Marta Chudolinska, (11 yrs) ,MIst (Library and Information Studies), BFA (Learning Zone Librarian)

Alex Homanchuk (9 yrs)  MLIS, MFA, AOCAD  (Head, E Resources & E Learning)

Support for OCAD U’s terminated librarians and adequate funding for our university’s library services has been growing across the country. Letters of support demanding have come in from across the country.  You can visit this page to see the latest letters. 


Over 1,500 people have signed this petition which calls for OCADU administration to: 

  • Cease all plans to restructure and reinstate the four academic librarians until there has been a thorough review of best practices and community needs  
  • Involve OCADU librarians, faculty and students in any major library reorganization  
  • Invest in OCADU’s Library and resources
  • Demonstrate that OCADU supports and upholds the academic principles of collegial decision-making and mutual respect

The library cuts stem from the recommendations of the external third party review. Our university has had multi-year deficits and needs to find ‘efficiencies’. There is another way to do this outside of the Enron model of ruthless corporate cuts.   When guided by principles of collegial governance, academic integrity and mutual respect, restructuring can maximize the strengths of a community, build harmonious relationships and creative teamwork.  

OCADFA Member bh Yael reflects on the state of Israel’s conduct towards Palestinians

I go to sleep thinking of Gaza, and I awake thinking of Gaza. It is not hard to imagine being confined to one’s home, not after this year, but then to imagine bombs raining down without recourse or escape, to think of the trauma inflicted on everyone, most especially children, to know that these attacks have been recurring and ongoing, and to witness the lack of conscience or moral persuasion of Israeli leadership or in fact of leaders around the world, all of this has just been too much. We are all rendered, seemingly powerless to persuade the powers that be, local, national or international to exert the kind of pressure required on the State of Israel to cease its ongoing war, not only on Gaza, but on the neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem, on communities in the West Bank, on its second-class citizens. ‘Ongoing’ is an operative word here. Though a current ceasefire is holding for the moment, the ‘facts on the ground’, occupation and ongoing home demolitions, ensure that there be more extreme violence.

As an Israeli born Canadian, one might imagine that I would repeat the narratives of protectionism many Jews feel. Those I hear from my mother, who is beside herself with worry for her brothers and sister, her nieces and nephews, her many cousins. I understand her worry, but I refuse to defend Israel. Our communications are wrought and eventually we have to decide not to talk about what is going on as our anger and hurt is too overwhelming.

From my perspective there is no value in protecting a state built on exaggerations, lies or on stolen land. There is too much evidence that the rationales of protectionism and security have been invoked to support military aggression and ethnic cleansing. These narratives are cynical manipulations, a cudgel of using anti-Semitism and invoking the Jewish holocaust for political gain, a strategy to muzzle criticism of the State of Israel’s expansionist agenda.

Pass systems, disproportionate jail populations of one demographic group, reservations and restricted mobility, lack of safe and necessary resources such as clean water, all these and more are not new to Canada’s ongoing relationship with First Nations. What has been identified as Settler Colonialism here has a different context in Israel, but the strategies are similar and the intent the same. Take over the land, annihilate, culturally or ethnically, the Indigenous population. Thankfully, increasingly, these historic wrongs are being acknowledged here; though the political redress is much too slow. In Palestine, the colonial acquisitiveness and military supremacy are ongoing and current. There is an agenda, be very clear, and the prospect of a two state solution has been rejected, not by Palestinians, but by Israel. The intent is to annex all of the meagre lands left, the less than 20 percent left of historic Palestine.

For the past twenty years and more I have been witness to and made work about the politics of Palestine and Israel, what many call ‘the conflict in the Middle East’: the history of massacres and deliberate, strategic and ongoing terror to either kill or scare Palestinians off their lands; the uprooting of olive trees and their livelihoods; the historic and continuing destruction of homes; the containment of whole populations; the imprisonment without legal recourse of a large proportion of civilians, including children; the human rights abuses now documented by Israeli groups such as B’Tselem and international ones such as Human Rights Watch. For those who want to know there are plenty of documentations, analyses, and personal witness accounts. Those who continue to defend the State of Israel and its narratives of self defense are deliberately ignoring the evidence of aggravated provocations and warmongering.

Is there a solution? There are many. I look forward to a time when these imaginings will be the priority rather than silence, tacit acceptance or defense of Israel’s unconscionable war on Palestine and its global defenders.

–bh Yael

Scholar’s Strike: Anti-Asian Racism programming May 29th and 30th

Two days! Nine panels! Thirty activist voices!

Activists, academics and artists respond to Asian Canadian realities and discourses made urgent by the recent rise of anti-Asian violence, against a backdrop of long standing systemic injustices. This two-day event tackles culture and politics, strategy and pedagogy, drawing connections across movements in abolition, sex work, labour, histories, art and culture and futures of community-building and organizing.

Panels will be livestreamed at ScholarStrikeCanada.ca. Live captioning will be available for the event. No registration necessary. Find out more at https://www.scholarstrikecanada.ca/.

UNIFOR Local 252 Workers Solidarity Actions and Update

On May 1st, UNIFOR Local 252 went on strike as a rejection of Nestle’s treatment of newer hires and of two-tiered contracts that caused prolonged precarity for many workers. Though we were told that this Local has to strike at every single round of collective bargaining, this strike was particularly difficult as, for the first time, Nestle cut off health benefits for people on strike. Several workers described the stress of not being able to afford necessary medical care, but believed that standing up for their dignity was so important it was what they had to do.

Of essential urgency was the way that Nestle treats precarious workers. When a person is newly hired, they are part of the P0 category. In this category of employment, you are considered temporary, and can be on call at all times. You are also paid less and subject to summary dismissal, which meant that many workers with P0 contracts would agree to perform work that was more dangerous – because they didn’t want to be fired. To become permanent, a P0 worker had to work 8,000 hours, which in some cases took many years.

It was amazing to see secure and permanent workers out on the line in solidarity with their precarious colleagues. On May 12ith, OCADFA voted a donation of $250 for UNIFOR 252’s strike fund in recognition of our common cause for justice for precarious workers and dignity for all. OCADFA VP Mary Eileen Wennekers also crafted a banner for them, and with OCADFA Secretary/Treasurer Chris Bennell and OCADFA Director Richard Hunt delivered our solidarity on the morning of Tuesday May 18th. 

UNIFOR 252 reached a tentative agreement with Nestle late Wednesday the 19th, which includes improvements for precarious workers, wage increases and benefit improvements.  Congratulations and thank you for sticking up for dignity, equity and each other! 

Sign up for the OCUFA newsletter to get news about the campaign to support Laurentian University

The battle to save Laurentian University continues with lots of work going on behind the scenes. Did you know that the Ontario Confederacy of University Faculty Associations produces a  bulletin giving updates about province-wide faculty initiatives and important information? You can catch their news and sign up for the weekly OCUFA newsletter (OCUFA Report) at www.ocufa.on.ca 


Min Sook Lee, JJ Lee, Eric Steenbergen, Graeme Reniers, Mary Eileen Wennekers, Elena Chou, bh Yael